Think Before You Spend

budgeting, spending, allotting money


I was at the gas station filling up our van before we left town. It had been awhile since the family bus had been washed, so I purchased a premium car wash as I swiped my card and went through the pay at the pump process. When the tank was full, I grabbed the receipt spit out from the gas terminal and verified I was given a car wash code. But when I turned around to check how long the line was for the car wash, I noticed orange cones were blocking the entrance signalling the car wash was not currently in operation.

I didn’t check the state of the equipment before purchasing the car wash, and there were several consequences:

  1. Extra Spending : I had a $9 car wash code that I couldn’t use that day. To wash my van, I had to pay for another car wash at a different location.
  2. Time: I had to take the time to drive to another convenience store with a car wash. We were a little pressed for time, and this was extremely inconvenient.
  3. Potential Loss : I don’t keep track of litle pieces of paper well. I would now have to keep track of the receipt with the code on it until I was able to use it. The chances of me accidentally throwing the receipt away believing I no longer needed it was quite high.

Side note: I don’t understand why the pay at the pump system couldn’t have warned me the car wash was offline when I tried to purchase the car wash. Seriously, people, the technology exists.

The fallout from this specific scenario is low, but it illustrates the fact that there are consequences for not fully thinking through the effects of a purchase. Buyer’s remorse is real, and we’ve all experienced it. Here are some questions that I try to ask myself before each purchase, especially those that seem to come up unexpectedly:

  • Do I need this? If the purchase is purely a want, that’s OK too, as long as I’ve gone through the paces of really thinking about whether it will bring enough enjoyment to me to make it worth the money.
  • Do I have the money? Sometimes my checking account needs to be reconciled before I will know how much available funds I have. If I don’t know the answer to this question, or if the answer is “No”, then I can’t buy it.
  • Have I shopped around? I need to price compare to ensure that I get the most value for my money.
  • How often will I use this? I recently saw an item I thought was neat and put it the cart. After thinking about it some more, I realized it’s something that really can only be used around the 4th of July Holiday. With this in mind, it no longer seemed worth of exchanging my hard earned cash for it. Back on the shelf it went.

Unless I win the lottery, I’ll never be in a financial state where I can buy whatever I want, whenever I want and not have to worry about depleting my funds. Each purchase has to be analyzed to ensure it’s the right decision for me and my family. The more you analyze each purchase, the easier it becomes. It becomes second nature. Sure, you’ll slip up sometimes, but it will remind you of how important that analysis is, and how inconvenient it is to see those orange cones blocking off the entrance to the car wash.


Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How much do you think about each of your purchases?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • That’s partly on the gas station system. We have a station that has a car wash and if it’s offline, the option to buy is removed from the options. That should have been the case for your experience.

  • Great example! Luckily the car washes in our town are not tied to gas pumps so that can’t happen. But I know the bigger point is think before you buy. I almost bought a spur-of-the-moment purchase this weekend and I’m glad I didn’t as I found a similar product online for WAY less.

  • I think about purchases as they relate to my budget (i.e. review my budget several times a month). Because of that, when purchases are made in the moment I’m not worrying whether or not I have the funds to cover it. I know I do based on my budget review.

  • @MoneyBeagle – I knew the technology exists….I don’t know why they don’t have it hooked together. Nice to see there ARE places using such a system!

  • @Kayla – normally it’s very convenient so that I don’t have to go inside to purchase a car wash. Although i guess I could actually drive into the carwash and pay there….but then I’d have another transaction to reconcile. Nice work on taking the time to think about your purchase…..saved you some money, right?!?

  • @Brian – sometimes even purchases that are made in budget (with discretionary funds) can end up causing regret. Even when I *can* afford something I think about it and make sure it’s a wise decision! Thanks for commenting, Brian!

  • I like how you think =) “Do I Need This” ? In most cases, the answer is no and that’s how we can save money. It works for pretty anything, from a coffee to shopping…

  • I have to admit that there are things I purchase that I put a lot of thought into and others where I just buy it & move on. I’m good with things like big ticket items and groceries, but when it comes to ice cream or something at a bakery I buy it and don’t care. Yes, sometimes the immediate joy I’m about to get overrides common sense. lol

  • I really like this article. I find that a lot of people purchase things that they don’t need because they did not think the purchase through. Friends will purchase things like computers or televisions and not think about bills that they owe and they end up being mad because they spent the money they would have used for paying their bills for purchasing something they really did not need.

  • @AlanK – exactly….and if I say it out loud, it makes more of an impact. It really forces you to face the fact that you may be wasting your money.

  • @Mitch – you have to be able to splurge once in a while….but once I got in the habit of analyzing every purchase, well, it’s a hard habit to break even for the most trivial of things.

  • @Tom – OR they buy something they don’t need, then later they find out they have no money to do something REALLY important. I hear you loud and clear!

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